Conservatism (Korean보수주의; Hanja保守主義; RRbosujuui) in South Korea is a political and social philosophy characterized by Korean culture and from Confucianism. South Korean conservative parties largely believe in stances such as a developmental state, pro-business, opposition to trade unions, strong national defense, anti-communism, pro-communitarianism, pro-United States and pro-European in foreign relations, pay attention on North Korean defectors, sanctions and human rights, and recently free trade, economic liberalism, and neoliberalism.

Starting from the dictatorship of Syngman Rhee, South Korean conservatism has been influenced from the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan. In domestic policy, South Korean conservatism has a strong elitist streak and promotes rapid modernization and social stability.[1] Since the mid-to-late 2010s, conservatives with right-wing populist tendencies have become more prominent in the public sphere.

Unlike conservatives in the United States, conservatives in South Korea often define themselves as liberals. Both groups fervently denounce socialism and refer to themselves as anti-socialists. They are distinct from the general liberals in South Korea.[2][3][4]


Domestic issues

See also: Korean nationalism

South Korea's conservative philosophy is derived in part from the traditional East Asian values of communitarianism and Confucian social conservatism, along with modern influences such as economic neoliberalism, leading to support for economic liberalism and opposition to welfare states. However, given the influence of the Park Chung-hee era on conservative's thinking, they also advocate for certain forms of economic interventionism which they think critical to maintain this system.

They are also more likely to support upholding the National Security Act.[5] Because of this, conservatives are less likely to solely prioritise ethnic nationalism, with their nationalism being a mixture of it with civic nationalism. Nonetheless, conservatives are less receptive to multiculturalism than liberals. Modern conservatives are generally against LGBT rights and activism.

The anti-communist tendencies of South Korean conservatives has led to perceptions by progressives and liberals that conservatives foster McCarthyist-like red scares among the public.[6][7][clarification needed] This includes an incident before the 1996 Legislative elections, where conservative lawmakers were arrested for secretly meeting with North Korean agents in Beijing to seek North's help in manipulating the outcome of the election in exchange for payoffs.[8] The North fired artillery into the Join Security Zone on the DMZ, which caused panic among South Korean electorates, benefiting the conservative party.[8]

International issues

Conservatism in South Korea is fervently anti-communist. South Korean conservatives oppose warming relations with North Korea, and therefore wish to strengthen the US-ROK alliance in order to improve South Korean security, in contrast to South Korean progressives who prefer détente with North Korea through the Sunshine Policy along with either maintaining the US-ROK alliance as is or softening it.[9] However, there is a split between moderates and hardliners among conservatives, with the former emphasizing issues related to North Korean defectors and identifying themselves as liberals, while the latter takes up the traditional aggressive emphasis on anti-communism and pro-Americanism.[5]


Before democratisation in 1987, South Korean conservatives were characterised not only by anti-communism, but also authoritarianism and developmentalism. After 1987, there was a trend in conservatism towards rebranding as the New Right and focusing on economic neoliberalism. In addition, conservatives adapted to the new democratic environment by increasing the number of conservative activist groups and online presence.[5]

Following 1987, the South Korean public became less interested in issues such as class and politics than in the past, and thus, overall, both progressives and conservatives shifted their messaging; the former shifted from radical politics to supporting the likes of social democracy and welfare expansion, whereas the latter emphasised neoliberal values such as "freedom, capabilities, and competition of individuals".[5]

The large city of Daegu, although a site of radical politics in the earlier postwar era, was transformed under the rule of Daegu-born Park Chung-hee and today has been called a "citadel of conservatism" in South Korea.[10] The southeastern region of the country, once collectively known as Gyeongsang, is where Daegu is found and this entire region is known for being particularly conservative, as can be seen in modern election results.

Following the success of Lee Myung-bak in the 2007 presidential election, some viewed it as a return to conservatism in South Korea after a decade of rule under progressive presidents, although an analysis by David C. Kang let him to argue that it was a turn towards centrism among the populace, given Lee's pragmatic business-minded tendencies, rather than traditional "arch-conservatism" of candidate Lee Hoi-chang. For instance, Lee pursued a more constructive and realistic foreign policy relationship with China in contrast to what more strident anti-communists would prefer, indicating the modern unpracticality of demonising China, even among conservative heads of state. During the campaigning seasons, Lee's aides also worked to present his approach as being "neither left nor right".[11]

Jeong Tae-heon, a professor of Korean history at Korea University has expressed concerns that disputes over the term Jayuminjujuui (Korean자유민주주의; lit. "liberal democracy" or "free and democracy") reflect a strong conservative bias reacting against North Korea's political ideologies, similar to political views seen in 1950.[12] The term liberal democracy as used by South Korean conservatives has a different connotation than in the Anglosphere, as its reflects the anti-communism and state-guided economic develop of the pre-1987 era.[5]

In 2020, People Power Party (South Korea)'s leader Kim Chong-in apologized for the Gwangju Democratization Movement.[13] But some conservative citizen groups such as the Korean Council for Restoration National Identity and American and Korean Friendship National Council protested at UNESCO headquarters in Paris in May 2011 to prevent inscribing the records of the Gwangju Democratization Movement in the Memory of the World Register, and to petition for "reconsidering identifying North Korean Special Forces as the perpetrators of the GDM.[14]

Conservative parties

The political party that once were ruling party are in bold. KIP is the exception for being a ruling party during Provisional Governmental era.

Mainstream parties

Minor parties

Conservative media in South Korea

The Chojoongdong media cartel wields the largest political influence in the South Korean political scene through newspaper and other print publications. The three media cartels have been criticized for fabricating stories against North Korea to support conservative rhetoric.

Conservative presidents

Major conservative parties election results of South Korea

Election Candidate Total votes Share of votes Outcome Party Name
1948 Rhee Syng-man 180 (electoral vote) 91.8% Elected Green tickY NARKKI
Kim Gu 13 (electoral vote) 6.7% Defeated Red XN Korean Independence Party
1952 Rhee Syng-man 5,238,769 74.6% Elected Green tickY Liberal Party
1956 Rhee Syng-man 5,046,437 70.0% Elected Green tickY Liberal Party
March 1960 Rhee Syng-man 9,633,376 100.0% Elected Green tickY Liberal Party
August 1960 no candidate
1963 Park Chung-hee 4,702,640 46.6% Elected Green tickY Democratic Republican Party
1967 Park Chung-hee 5,688,666 51.4% Elected Green tickY Democratic Republican Party
1971 Park Chung-hee 6,342,828 53.2% Elected Green tickY Democratic Republican Party
1972 Park Chung-hee 2,357 (electoral vote) 99.91 Elected Green tickY Democratic Republican Party
1978 Park Chung-hee 2,578 (electoral vote) 99.96% Elected Green tickY Democratic Republican Party
1981 Chun Doo-hwan 4,755 (electoral vote) 90.2% Elected Green tickY Democratic Justice Party
1987 Roh Tae-woo 8,282,738 36.6% Elected Green tickY Democratic Justice Party
Kim Young-sam 6,337,581 28.0% Defeated Red XN Reunification Democratic Party
Kim Jong-pil 1,823,067 8.1% Defeated Red XN New Democratic Republican Party
1992 Kim Young-sam 9,977,332 42.0% Elected Green tickY Democratic Liberal Party
Chung Ju-yung 3,880,067 16.3% Defeated Red XN United People's Party
1997 Lee Hoi-chang 9,935,718 38.7% Defeated Red XN Grand National Party
2002 Lee Hoi-chang 11,443,297 46.5% Defeated Red XN Grand National Party
2007 Lee Myung-bak 11,492,389 48.7% Elected Green tickY Grand National Party
2012 Park Geun-hye 15,773,128 51.6% Elected Green tickY Saenuri Party
2017 Hong Jun-pyo 7,852,849 24.03% Defeated Red XN Liberty Korea Party
Yoo Seung-min 2,208,771 6.76% Defeated Red XN Bareun Party
2022 Yoon Suk-yeol 16,394,815 48.56% Elected Green tickY People Power Party

General elections

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on
Election Total seats won Total votes Share of votes Outcome of election Status Election leader Party Name
55 / 200
1,755,543 26.1 new 55 seats; Minority in government Rhee Syng-man NARRKI
24 / 210
677,173 9.7 new 24 seats; Minority in government Yun Chi-young Korea Nationalist Party
14 / 210
473,153 6.8 Decrease41 seats; Minority in government Rhee Syng-man National Association
114 / 203
2,756,061 36.8 new 114 seats; Majority in government Rhee Syng-man Liberal Party
3 / 210
192,109 2.6 Decrease11 seats; Minority in government National Association
3 / 203
72,923 1.0 Decrease21 seats; Minority in government Yun Chi-young Korea Nationalist Party
126 / 233
3,607,092 42.1 Increase12 seats; Majority in government Rhee Syng-man Liberal Party
2 / 233
249,960 2.8 Decrease124 seats; Majority in opposition Rhee Syng-man Liberal Party
110 / 175
3,112,985 33.5% new 110 seats; Majority in government Park Chung-hee Democratic Republican Party
129 / 175
5,494,922 50.6% Increase19 seats; Majority in government Park Chung-hee Democratic Republican Party
113 / 204
5,460,581 48.8% Decrease16 seats; Majority in government Park Chung-hee Democratic Republican Party
146 / 219
4,251,754 38.7% Decrease40 seats; Majority in government Park Chung-hee Democratic Republican Party
145 / 231
4,695,995 31.7% Increase2 seats; Majority in government Park Chung-hee Democratic Republican Party
151 / 276
5,776,624 35.6% new 151 seats; Majority in government Chun Doo-hwan Democratic Justice Party
25 / 276
2,147,293 13.2% new 15 seats; Minority in opposition Kim Jong-cheol Korean National Party
148 / 276
7,040,811 34.0% Decrease3 seats; Majority in government Chun Doo-hwan Democratic Justice Party
20 / 276
1,828,744 9.2% Decrease5 seats; Minority in opposition Kim Jong-cheol Korean National Party
125 / 299
6,675,494 34.0% Decrease23 seats; Minority in government Roh Tae-woo Democratic Justice Party
35 / 299
3,062,506 15.6% new 35 seats; Minority in opposition (1988-1990) Kim Jong-pil New Democratic Republican Party
in government (1990-1993)
149 / 299
7,923,719 38.5% new 149 seats; Minority in government Roh Tae-woo Democratic Liberal Party
31 / 299
3,574,419 17.4% new 31 seats; Minority in opposition Chung Ju-yung United People's Party
139 / 299
6,783,730 34.5% new 139 seats; Minority in government (1996-1998) Kim Young-sam New Korea Party
in opposition (1998-2000)
50 / 299
3,178,474 16.2% new 50 seats; Minority in opposition (1996-1998) Kim Jong-pil United Liberal Democrats
in government (1998-2000)
133 / 273
7,365,359 39.0% new 133 seats; Minority in opposition Lee Hoi-chang Grand National Party
17 / 273
1,859,331 9.8% Decrease35 seats; Minority in government (2000-2001) Kim Jong-pil United Liberal Democrats
in opposition (2001-2004)
3 / 273
695,423 3.7% new 3 seats; Minority in opposition Democratic People's Party
121 / 299
7,613,660 35.8% Decrease24 seats; Minority in opposition Park Geun-hye Grand National Party
4 / 299
600,462 2.8% Decrease6 seats; Minority in opposition Kim Jong-pil United Liberal Democrats
153 / 299
6,421,654 37.5% Increase32 seats; Majority in government Kang Jae-seop Grand National Party
18 / 299
1,173,463 6.8% new 18 seats; Minority in government Lee Hoi-chang Liberty Forward Party
14 / 299
2,258,750 13.2% new 14 seats; Minority in government Suh Chung-won Pro-Park Coalition
152 / 300
9,130,651 42.8% new 152 seats; Majority in government Park Geun-hye Saenuri Party
5 / 300
690,754 3.2% Decrease13 seats; Minority in government Sim Dae-pyung Liberty Forward Party
122 / 300
7,960,272 42.8% Decrease30 seats; Minority in government (2016-2017) Kim Moo-sung Saenuri Party
in opposition (2017-2020)
103 / 300
11,915,277 (Constituency)
9,441,520 (Party-list PR)
41.45% (Constituency)
33.84% (Party-list PR)
Decrease8 seats; Minority in opposition Hwang Kyo-ahn United Future Party (Constituency)
Future Korea Party (Party-list PR)

Local elections

Election Metropolitan mayor/Governor Provincial legislature Municipal mayor Municipal legislature Party Name
5 / 15
284 / 875
70 / 230
Democratic Liberal Party
4 / 15
82 / 875
23 / 230
United Liberal Democrats
6 / 16
224 / 616
74 / 232
Grand National Party
4 / 16
82 / 616
29 / 232
United Liberal Democrats
11 / 16
467 / 682
136 / 227
Grand National Party
1 / 16
33 / 682
16 / 227
United Liberal Democrats
12 / 16
557 / 733
155 / 230
1,621 / 2,888
Grand National Party
6 / 16
288 / 761
82 / 228
1,247 / 2,888
Grand National Party
1 / 16
41 / 761
13 / 228
117 / 2,888
Liberty Forward Party
0 / 16
3 / 761
0 / 228
19 / 2,888
Pro-Park Coalition
8 / 17
416 / 789
117 / 226
1,413 / 2,898
Saenuri Party
2 / 17
137 / 824
53 / 226
1,009 / 2,927
Liberty Korea Party
12 / 17
540 / 872
145 / 226
1,435 / 2,987
People Power Party

See also


  1. ^ 한국 보수주의를 묻는다. Historical Criticism (in Korean) (95). Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
  2. ^ "한국 보수가 사랑한 '자유'···그들이 외친 '자유'는 따로 있었다 :자유주의란 무엇인가?" [Korean conservatives loved "Liberty" but... But there was a separate "Liberty" they shouted. :What is liberalism?]. Joongang Ilbo (in Korean). 19 April 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  3. ^ "[박찬수 칼럼] '자유'와 민주주의, 리버럴" [[Park Chansoo's column] "Liberal" and democracy, liberalism.]. The Hankyoreh (in Korean). 3 July 2018. Retrieved 30 October 2021. ... '자유'라는 말만큼 요즘 그 의미가 새롭게 다가오는 단어도 드물다. 주말마다 광화문에서 열리는 태극기집회에 가면 '자유민주주의 수호'란 구호를 귀가 따갑도록 들을 수 있다. 그분들이 말하는 자유는 자유한국당의 '자유'와 일맥상통하지만, 1960년 4·19 직후 김수영 시인이 쓴 시의 한 구절 "어째서 자유에는 피의 냄새가 섞여 있는가를"에 나오는 '자유'와는 사뭇 다르다 ... 십수년 전 워싱턴특파원 시절, 가장 곤혹스러운 영어단어 중 하나가 '리버럴'(liberal)이었다. 미국에선 '리버럴' 하면 보통 민주당 지지자나 진보주의자를 뜻하는데 ... [... Few words have a new meaning these days as much as the word "liberal". If you go to the Taegukgi rallies held at Gwanghwamun every weekend, you can hear the slogan "Guardian of Liberal Democracy." The liberal they say is in line with the Liberty Korea Party's "liberal", but it is clearly different from "liberal" in a verse from a poem written by poet Kim Soo-young shortly after 19 April 1960. ... When I was a Washington correspondent decades ago, one of the most embarrassing English words was "liberal". In the United States, "liberal" usually means a Democratic supporter or progressive, but if it is incorporated into a sentence ...]
  4. ^ "윤석열이 22번 언급한 그 단어... 자유주의의 역습" [The word that Yoon Seok Yeol mentioned 22 times... The counterattack of liberalism.]. OhmyNews (in Korean). 8 July 2021. Retrieved 4 November 2021. ... 윤희숙 국민의힘 의원은 민주당 의원들이 발의한 사회적경제기본법을 자유주의의 적이라고 규정했고 ... [... Yoon Hee-sook, a member of the People Power Party National Assembly member, defined the Framework Act on Social Economy proposed by Democratic Party of Korea as an enemy of liberalism ...]
  5. ^ a b c d e Kim, Hanna; Cho, Heejung; Jeong, Bokgyo (2011). "Social Networks and Ideological Orientation of South Korean NGOs Involved in the Unification Issues of the Korean Peninsula". Asian Survey. 51 (5): 844–875. doi:10.1525/as.2011.51.5.844. ISSN 0004-4687. JSTOR 10.1525/as.2011.51.5.844.
  6. ^ Kang, Hyun-kyung (2 April 2012). "Is red scare right-wing conspiracy?". The Korea Times. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  7. ^ Jung, Jin-Heon (2016). "The Religious-Political Aspirations of North Korean Migrants and Protestant Churches in Seoul". Journal of Korean Religions. 7 (2): 123–148. ISSN 2093-7288. JSTOR 24892380. On the other side, the contingencies of the ritual seem to become more tactile and controversial in the public spaces of Seoul where one can witness the extent to which "Red complex" has been reinvigorated. In this scheme, political and religious conservatives view liberal and progressive South Koreans as pro-North leftist Reds. It is fairly common that in any public space, such as Seoul City Hall Plaza, one might find politically conservative evangelical Christians holding pickets on which the terms chongbuk chwappal ("pro-North Korea leftist-red") are printed along with the term tongsŏngae ("homosexuality").
  8. ^ a b "Korean Cloak-and-dagger Case Might Be Unparalleled in Scope – tribunedigital-chicagotribune". Archived from the original on 11 September 2018.
  9. ^ Chae, Haesook (2010). "South Korean Attitudes toward the ROK—U.S. Alliance: Group Analysis". PS: Political Science and Politics. 43 (3): 493–501. doi:10.1017/S1049096510000727. ISSN 1049-0965. JSTOR 25699357. S2CID 155083075.
  10. ^ NAM, HWASOOK (2013). "Progressives and Labor under Park Chung Hee: A Forgotten Alliance in 1960s South Korea". The Journal of Asian Studies. 72 (4): 873–892. doi:10.1017/S0021911813001113. ISSN 0021-9118. JSTOR 43553233. S2CID 162957725.
  11. ^ Kang, David C. (2008). "South Korea's Not-So-Sharp Right Turn". Current History. 107 (710): 256–262. doi:10.1525/curh.2008.107.710.256. ISSN 0011-3530. JSTOR 45318249.
  12. ^ Park, Jang-jun (13 November 2011). 한국의 보수는 1950년에 머물러 있다. Media Today (in Korean). Retrieved 19 November 2011.
  13. ^ 김종인 "호남 홀대해 전국민에 실망"…주호영 "호남에 죄송합니다". The Donga Ilbo (in Korean). 23 September 2020. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  14. ^ Bae, Myeong-jae (11 May 2011). 보수단체 "광주학살은 北 특수부대 소행". The Kyunghyang Shinmun (in Korean). Retrieved 19 November 2011.